In general. Spoilers below for thus far in the show, and thus far in the books, just to be safe, but not any further because we’re not psychic and the preview chapters don’t pertain to this. 🙂
So. Just. OK. We’re about to talk about a whole bunch of rape scenes. And we’re sorry. And we’re not experts. But. We watch this show, and if we’re going to explain what we don’t like, there’s really no better place to start.
In book 2, Joffrey and co. are parading down the street at a time when things are really rough for the common folk – as in, they’re starving to death. A woman intercepts the procession holding a dead baby. Joffrey moves as though he is going to run her down, and Sansa whispers in his ear. Instead of running the woman down, he tosses her a coin.
Then maybe she throws the baby. And someone throws some manure in Joff’s face, and he orders his goons to kill everyone, so: riot.
Book 2 is a little slow, but there are three stand-out moments in erm’s opinion. One is the King’s Landing riot. It’s horrible. It’s terrifying. It forces our main characters, who are basically all high-born, to confront the suffering that they inflict on the little people when they do a crappy job of ruling.
The show’s version was… underwhelming. There was a bit of violence, no dead baby (that is totally OK. Nobody needs dead babies), no Lollys… but instead, we got an almost-rape scene for Sansa.
At this point in the show, complaining about an almost-rape scene that happens to Sansa may seem a little unnecessary since we’ve progressed to full rape with her character, but this was really the scene that defines what we don’t like about this show’s treatment of rape in general.
In the book, we only hear about what happens to Sansa second-hand (it’s Tyrion’s chapter): a crowd surrounds Sansa, they shout at her for bread, she tells them she doesn’t have anything, and they start to try to pull her off her horse. Then the Hound shows up and cuts a guy in half or something, and takes her back to safety.
In the show, however, Sansa stumbles into a backalley (there were no horses. Which is OK, because horses aren’t actors). She is followed by three back-alley rapists, who look positively delighted that a young woman has wandered into a backalley, which is their natural habitat.
Instead of this being a riot where the frustrations of the common folk are horrifically taken out on an innocent, if well-born woman, it’s turned into just another backalley rape scene. These guys didn’t show up to scream about how they and their children are starving to death, they showed up to be backalley rapists, which takes a lot of the complexity out of the equation. We’re not in any way saying what happened to Lollys is justifiable, but it makes real-world sense. Sometimes people are attacked in backalleys, but rape that happens over and over again in the street and no one, not one person, commoner or high-born, does anything about it: that is a more intelligent and useful commentary than the show’s version.
The scene itself goes on seemingly forever. They keep cutting away and cutting back. Sansa’s dress gets ripped, she’s struggling, telling them to stop, etc. All seems hopeless. Because of the just grand way the scene is edited, we know without actually seeing anything that it is now, EXACTLY at the moment where penetration is about to occur, that the Hound shows up.
Look. Watching backalley rapists get gutted in the street is fun and all, but this payoff probably isn’t worth what we just paid for it. Sansa was in enough danger without this. We’d argue the whole scene is in incredibly poor taste. She’s a young actress playing an even younger character, and we didn’t need to know just how close she was to some guy’s dick in order to feel scared for her.
Compared to Sansa’s ACTUAL rape scene, we think this one is significantly worse. There’s something almost merciful in having the camera on Theon rather than Sansa – honestly, we think there wasn’t a better way to do it. We’ve heard the arguments that doing it that way makes it all about his pain rather than hers, but we think rather that Theon is kind of an audience avatar. He’s feeling our pain and mirroring it back at us, and then we don’t need to watch ANOTHER GODDAMN RAPE on this show in order for us to experience the emotional wallop.
Remember how they wrote, filmed, and edited a rape scene without even realizing they’d done it until the audience was like, “… what was that?” Yeah. That probably happens because the creators are not thinking carefully enough about how they’re portraying sexuality and sexual violence. And it shows, and keeps showing, and will keep showing until they start doing a better job.
Then there’s the perpetually creepy way this show portrays sex workers. They’re there for the gratuitous nudity/sex scenes, but they’re also disposable, of use to the show when we need a familiar face to see murdered.
That whole scene in season one where Littlefinger both tells his entire backstory and explains to Roz and Noname how to handle a client is just awful. He tells them to start off bored, and then gradually try to convince the (male) client that he’s the special one who can get her worn-out body to feel some pleasure, which is of course the ultimate test of masculinity.
It wouldn’t be the worst thing, we suppose, if they’d left it at that, but a couple of seasons in we have that whole stupid Pod thing, where Tyrion pays a huge sum to a bunch of the girls but they return it because Pod was just. That. Good. And they can’t explain it. Roz says they’re usually so descriptive but they couldn’t describe what was so great about Pod.
The final general problem we have with the show is its bizarre tendency to turn a horrible character into a likable or semi-likable one. Maybe that was bound to happen with Ramsay, being played by Iwan Rheon who is criminally charismatic. Ramsay is not a charismatic character. In the show he has a (currently dead) girlfriend – how. HOW does Ramsay have a girlfriend. He despises women. Why would he willingly spend time with one?
He’s just awful. There are apparently show-watchers who still think Joff is a worse character than Ramsay. He isn’t. Joff is a twelve-year-old who needed better parenting. The show went all-in and implied that Joff was hopeless, a sociopath from birth and unreachable, except perhaps by Margaery, but the book was a little less harsh. Ramsay, on the other hand, is scum. There is nothing redeemable about him. He may be surpassed in being detestable because he is stupider than his ice cold father, who appears to be a comparatively functioning sociopath, and perhaps also Euron Greyjoy. We hope we don’t have to spend anymore time with Euron Greyjoy and find out whether he’s actually worse than Ramsay.
On the other hand, considering how important Ramsay has become to the plot, it’s probably better that they toned down how awful he is, because in the book we thankfully don’t spend nearly as much time with him. Mainly we spend time with Theon post all of the torturing that we also didn’t have to read first-hand, and we spend that time dreading Ramsay rather than actually experiencing him.
Bronn is a better example of how irritating it is when the show makes a terrible character a hero for some unknown reason. Bronn may be at times refreshing and entertaining, but why anyone wants to spend any time with this character is beyond us. He’s not trustworthy, he believes in nothing, he barely has standards. We don’t want him anywhere near Lollys, book or show. But we’re apparently the only ones. Everyone else loves Bronn.
We hope he dies in the first episode.